A More Equal Wales: Strengthening Social Partnership

19th November 2019

In response to the Fair Work Commission’s recommendations in March this year, the Welsh Government has published the White Paper, ‘A More Equal Wales: Strengthening Social Partnership’.

The aims of the White Paper are to reduce social and economic inequality in Wales whilst supporting economic growth. Workers in Wales should be provided with ‘fair work’, being where workers are fairly rewarded, heard and represented, secure and able to progress in a healthy, inclusive environment where rights are respected. The Welsh Government seeks to achieve its aims by working together with different parties in the workforce collaboratively to address social and economic challenges, and by imposing new duties on public bodies.

The Paper proposes a Social Partnership Bill which will:

  • establish a Social Partnership Council;
  • develop social partnership principles;
  • introduce a duty on public bodies to promote the goals of fair work in their decision making and to work as part of social partnerships; and
  • impose a duty on public bodies to practice social procurement.

The Social Partnership Council will comprise members from key public and privates employers, trade unions and government and will be chaired by the First Minister. The role of the Council will be to:

  • resolve workplace issues within the devolved public sector in order to improve public services;
  • reach agreements on what is expected from organisations and businesses which receive public support, in relation to workforce issues;
  • consider generally how social partnership and fair work can be more effective and efficient in improving people’s well-being and contributing to a prosperous Wales; and
  • consider how government policy, expenditure and legislation can best contribute to a prosperous Wales and improve people’s well-being.

It is envisaged that the Council will amalgamate the work of the Council for Economic Development and the Workforce Partnership Council to create a single work programme. The Council may also have an enforcement role should public bodies not adhere to their commitment to social partnership and social mobility.

The consultation also suggests placing a duty on public bodies to have regard to social partnership principles and to promote the objective of fair work. This would require public bodies to take steps to establish social partnership mechanisms and consider whether the organisation’s strategic decisions further the objective of a fair work nation. The duty would be intended to complement section 1 of the Equality Act 2010 which places a duty on public bodies to have due regard, when making strategic decisions about how to exercise their functions, to the desirability of exercising them in a way which is designed to reduce inequalities of outcome which result for socio-economic disadvantage.

The Welsh Government also proposes that public bodies produce procurement strategies with fair work at the centre, with legislative guidance to provide compulsory considerations for public bodies when developing their strategies. The Welsh Government’s rationale behind this proposal is that procurement contracts should be investing in the Welsh economy and supporting people in Wales and therefore contracts should be given to businesses who will provide fair work to their employees. Public bodies would produce annual reports on how their strategies were implemented which would be reviewed by the Social Partnership Council.

The Welsh Government seeks responses to its White Paper by 2 January 2020.

The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James has added: “While work remains the best route out of poverty, more and more people in work are struggling to make ends meet. We cannot accept that rising inequality is inevitable as our national economy grows …This White Paper outlines proposals to strengthen our social partnership arrangements and deliver a renewed, more ambitious agenda for greater social equality …”

You can view the full White Paper or to respond to the consultation on the Welsh Government website here.

For more information, please contact Joanne Thompson or Eve Piffaretti.

This article has been co-written by Rhian Davies and Eve Piffaretti.

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